A man who once wrote quizzes for the Wanganui Chronicle is heading for Rome next month, hoping to talk to Pope Francis about his years of abuse in Catholic institutions.

Darryl Smith lived in Castlecliff, Whanganui, for about five years in the 1990s. During that time Chronicle editor Jim McLees allowed him to write fortnightly quizzes, published on Saturdays.

It was a breakthrough for Smith, who had been in and out of prison all his adult life, for crimes like theft and burglary.

"[McLees] would be proud to know that I have gone from strength to strength and changed my life," he said.

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Smith is now 55 and lives in Dunedin. He has been talking to its Catholic bishop, Michael Dooley, about his treatment by members of the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God in New Zealand and Australia.

Bishop Dooley is funding Smith's six-day trip to Rome next month. Sexual abuse by clergy will be on the Pope's mind - he has summoned senior Catholic bishops from all over the world to talk about it from February 21-24.

Smith hopes to talk to the Pope in person. The Kiwi wants to give the pontiff a copy of his self-published book, A Shattered Life. It's about his experiences in church and state care.

"I want to ask him to be more accountable and help all survivors [of abuse] better."

Aged 6 in 1971, Smith was abused at the Marylands School for children with special needs in Christchurch. It happened again when he was 15 years old in Brisbane, at the Granada Hostel run by the same St John of God group.

He told an Australian royal commission the group ought to be called "Paedophiles Are Us".

"They have the highest rate in Australia for child abuse."

Smith says he was also abused while in state care in both Australia and New Zealand. He's received apologies and been compensated by both countries, but says the abuse takes a long time to get over.

"Your head doesn't come right for a very long time. You are actually stuck at the age you were when you were sexually abused."

Doing art has helped him a lot. He's also writing more books about his life, and is hoping to go to another conference for survivors, in Washington DC, in the United States, in July.

"I changed my life 180 degrees. The last time I was in trouble was 2009," he said.